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2 months ago

Waiting lines

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We all have experience of waiting for a service such as a bus to arrive. It can be a boring everyday chore in the morning for going to office. However, it can also be an exciting engagement such as treasure hunt in the New Year sales when one waits hours for the store to open in the morning. I recall such an experience in my early years at the university when there was a three-day international film festival at the city. The demand for tickets was enormous and queues to procure them insane. To cater to the huge demand the shows were held round the clock, almost twenty-four hours a day. I queued and got the ticket. The showtime was twelve midnight. I returned home tired, took a shower and had an early meal. There was plenty of time for a quick nap to get over the tiredness of a long wait in the queue. I slept and got up at half past twelve. It cannot be a unique experience as I am sure there are people who queued overnight for a prize item at the sales only to find that the item had been sold out just as he reached the counter.

Thanks to technology, most such situations have now been rationalized such as waiting for service at a bank. Computer controls the waiting line as one waits in the comfort of a chair. There is no jostling for a position. Good or bad, that is a subjective view as there are people who enjoyed the jostling as they jumped from one waiting line to another like Mr Beans. There is an unwritten law of waiting lines, that the other queue moves faster than the one you are in. The behaviour can still be experienced at the immigration counters in some international airports.

In a similar manner, I remember the olden days of trading in the stock market through brokerage houses. The process was slow compared to the electronic trading today. In spite of a large number of people trading in this market, to my experience it is not a market for the feint hearted. The stocks have their own mind beyond the fundamentals. There is much speculative buying based on hearsay that in turn affects movement of the market. This is how ordinary people are influenced to buy and sell. An alternative option is to use the investment brokers. To be effective one needs a large portfolio of funds that allow brokers options to balance the weak against the strong stocks. There has to be some speculation if one wants a good gain. For a small portfolio the cost charged for fund management can eat up the small gains leaving the owner almost nothing. One can, of course, take risk, the other name of gambling, such as George Soros did in the nineties, and made fortune by betting on the British pound. In a similar manner people made fortunes by betting on the irrational movement of the market when NYSE crashed in late nineteen-twenties. People made money in many such small crashes in the later years such as the recent housing crisis. And such speculations are always done irrespective of market situation. Warren Buffet is an exception as he claims to pick stocks based on their fundamentals. He chooses a few and keeps them long, even influences the company to divest parts or buy up newer ones. This is possible when one has large funds and ability to wait. This is how the better-known investment managers make money today, for their clients as well as themselves.

Internet is a wonderful activity that can keep awake round the clock. There was a time when people complained about insomnia or inability to sleep. Today, nobody wants to sleep with TikTok dancing all around, all the time! There are so many things to keep one awake and with pleasure. It can however, be a problem for the partner sharing the bed. Yet better than the television's glaring eyes, should one want to check the late-night news, even if the sound is muted. The question today is to balance the alternatives so that one's personal interests do not rub on the personal space of another person such as a cell phone lighting up in a dark cinema hall. We live in a connected world but sanity requires disconnection at points of time.

We travel today fast. Once, journeys that took days and even months can now be done in hours such as trip across a continent. We now travel faster than the speed of sound and may soon beat that of light, almost. My wish before I close my eyes is not to see that speed, but experience the next dimension other than the time. It may be difficult to fathom it now. But neither was Internet in the days of my grandparents that has now become a cure for insomnia, among many other things.

 

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